The Lelos, with the Rugby World Georgia logo on their shirts, achieve their first win over a Six Nations team
Georgia beat Italy in Batumi
It’s been a weekend of historic victories in international rugby.
First, Ireland beat the All Blacks on New Zealand soil for the first time. Then Wales achieved their first victory over the Springboks in South Africa. And now Georgia have triumphed against a Six Nations team for the first time.
They beat Italy 28-19 in front a vocal crowd in Batumi, which is located on the Black Sea coast, and fireworks were launched from the city’s skyscrapers to mark the famous triumph.
The president of Georgia, Salome Zourabichvili, was in attendance to celebrate the victory too.
As you’d expect from Georgia, it was a hugely physical performance and they won several penalties at the breakdown and scrum at important times. Yet they also put pressure on the Azzurri with their aerial game and, in particular, their kick-chase.
They are no longer a team that relies solely on their set-piece; they have more of an all-court game with dangerous runners in their back-line.
The Lelos, sporting the Rugby World Georgia logo on their shirts, stormed into a 12-0 lead with tries from Alexander Todua and Tedo Abzhandadze. The latter score was created from a brilliant run by full-back Davit Niniashvili, who celebrates his 20th birthday in four days’ time.
Italy pulled ahead with a Tommaso Menoncello try and eight points from the boot of Tommaso Allan, but Georgia had regained the lead by half-time when Abzhandadze crossed for his second.
The visitors pushed for another try in the second half, getting close from a five-metre lineout early on, but the Lelos’ defence held firm and three penalties allowed them to keep the Azzurri at bay as they closed out the win with a smart territorial game plan.
The result will, of course, reignite the debate over whether the Six Nations should introduce relegation.
Italy ended their 36-match losing run in the championship when they beat Wales in Cardiff in the final match of this year’s tournament, but there have long been calls for the team that finishes bottom in the table to play the winner of the Rugby Europe Championship for a place in the following year’s Six Nations.
Six Nations organisers have consistently ruled out the possibility, but it is clear that Georgia need regular matches against top-tier opposition.
On Monday, President of Rugby Europe Octavian Morariu said: “A huge congratulations to everyone who is associated to Georgian rugby on Sunday’s historic evening in Batumi with their win over Italy. We have seen in our own competitions the elite level of rugby that they produce and believe that for them, and the game, to grow further that more opportunities at this level must be a given.
“But we all know that unfortunately, the way European and international rugby are currently structured, does not allow this to happen in the near future.
“We will be the first at the table to see how we can progressively improve the game in all areas, obviously with a keen focus on Europe and the international teams that play in our continent.”
It’s good to see that the Lelos are on Wales’ autumn Internationals schedule this year – one of their pool opponents at next year’s Rugby World Cup – but more needs to be done to ensure emerging nations like Georgia are given a pathway to continue their development.
It’s ten years since Argentina were included in the Rugby Championship and Pacific Islands teams have been playing Super Rugby this season, but in Europe it seems to be harder for teams to get involved in top-tier competitions. If not the Six Nations, what about a Georgian franchise in the European Challenge Cup? After all, South African sides have been invited in…
Let us know what you think about what could be next for Georgia by emailing email@example.com
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